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By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 19th Apr 12
The tension sharpened at the launch area at Wheeler Island, on the Odisha coast, this morning as the massive, 50-tonne, 17.5 metre high Agni-5 missile was elevated into the vertical launch position, and the pre-launch checks began. The previous evening, exactly at this stage, lightening and thunder in the skies above had led to the launch being put off till morning.
At 8.07 a.m. the countdown went 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Now… and a giant ball of fire leapt out as the missile’s first stage ignited. As the Agni-5 rose smoothly off the launch pad, scientists checked off the health of its systems on the public address system, their voices calm, measured, almost surreal given the tension amongst the viewers. After 90 seconds, the first stage burnt out and separated. The missile was travelling at exactly the speed it should have been. Then, on schedule, the second stage burnt out and separated, an all-new composite stage that had performed exquisitely. By now there was already the sense that this would be a perfect test.
Within minutes, the Agni-5 was in space, streaking southwards for 2,000 kilometres until it crossed the equator. Then it hurtled along for another 3000-kilometers, re-entering the atmosphere over the Tropic of Capricorn and splashing down between the southern tip of Africa and Australia. From launch to splash-down, just 20 minutes had elapsed.
“Indian naval vessels tracked the missile all along its course, including at the terminal stage. The accuracy of the missile was exactly as expected,” said the DRDO’s spokesperson.
For Dr Saraswat, the Defence R&D Organisation chief after a lifetime of working in the DRDO’s ballistic missile programme, this was the sweetest of moments.
“Any launch is tense, even after testing a hundred missiles; and this was the first launch of the Agni-5,” Saraswat told Business Standard soon after the test. “Over the last 3-4 days, the team had gone through the complete launch process, with each activity and system being put through our scanners: the propulsion system, navigation system, everything. By yesterday I was completely confident of a successful launch.”
At the launch pad with Saraswat were Avinash Chander, the DRDO’s chief controller of missiles, a man of few words and big achievements; VG Sekaran, the laconic, wry-humoured boss of Advanced Systems Laboratory, the home of the Akash programme; Tessy Thomas, the self-effacing “missile woman”, who handled the Agni-4 project; and Dr Gupta, the Project Director for this test.
“For us, the Agni-5 success is the culmination of 30 years of work that began in earnest in 1983,” said Dr Saraswat.
Defence Minister, AK Antony, congratulated the team for “the immaculate success” of the Agni-5, hailing the efforts of “numerous unsung scientists of DRDO who have worked relentlessly years together to bring the nation to this threshold.”
In fact, the success of the Agni-5 was almost a foregone conclusion. Last November, several challenging new technologies that this missile incorporates were validated in an unannounced launch of the surprise Agni-4 missile. That new 3,500 kilometre range missile successfully tested a new composite rocket motor, made of lightweight composite materials instead of the heavier “maraging steel” that earlier rocket motors were fabricated from. The other brand-new technologies that the Agni-4 tested included: a highly accurate “ring-laser gyroscope based inertial navigation system (RINS)”; a “micro-navigation system (MINGS)”; and a powerful new onboard computer. By testing all these technologies in the Agni-4 the DRDO minimised the technology risks of today’s Agni-5 test.
The DRDO chief told Business Standard that the Agni-5 was not just a long-range rocket. “This missile incorporates unique technologies that will allow us to have multiple variants. We can achieve short ranges, higher ranges… all with the same missile,” he said.
Although the DRDO calls the Agni-5 an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), its range of 5000 kilometres puts it --- by most conventional measures --- in the class of intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), which have ranges of 3,000-5,500 kilometres. The Agni-5’s range is carefully calibrated; it can reach targets anywhere except for America and Australia. This would allow it to strike all India’s potential adversaries, even as friendly capitals in Western Europe and the US stay out of range. DRDO sources say that, in case of need, the Agni-5 could easily be ramped up into an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), with a range of more than 5500 kilometres.
For now, more testing lies ahead, says the DRDO chief. “We will have two more test launches of the Agni-5, and then productionise it for induction into field service with the Strategic Forces Command. We will also start working on different variants of the Agni-5, including MIRVs (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles), anti satellite systems, and on making the Agni-5 capable of launching military satellites on demand,” says Saraswat.
A distinctive feature of the Agni-5 is its “canisterisation”. Immediately after its manufacture, the missile is hermetically sealed into an airtight canister. Mounted on a flatbed truck, the missile can be easily transported to a launch site; and fired quickly by hydraulically raising the canister into the vertical firing position. The canister is made of maraging steel, allowing it to absorb the enormous stresses of firing, when 300-400 tonnes of thrust is generated to eject the 50-ton missile. The hermitically sealed atmosphere inside the canister allows the missile be stored safely for years.
The DRDO claims that the Agni-5’s advanced navigation system would permit the use of smaller nuclear weapons. Speaking earlier to Business Standard, Avinash Chander said, “Megaton warheads were used when accuracies were low. Now we talk of [accuracy of] a few hundred metres. That allows a smaller warhead, perhaps 150-250 kilotons, to cause substantial damage. We don’t want to cause wanton damage [with unnecessarily large warheads].”
by Ajai Shukla
Tuesday, 17 April 2012
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Business Standard, 4th April 12
The revised Defence Offset Guidelines (DOG) were approved by the MoD’s apex Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) at a meeting in New Delhi on Monday. Offsets were first made mandatory in the Defence Procurement Policy of 2006 (DPP-2006) and then revised periodically. The policy requires foreign vendors who win defence contracts worth Rs 300 crore or more to plough back at least 30% of the contract value into India in the form of defence orders, technology or infrastructure.
Crucially, the revised DOG provides clarity to the offset policy by explicitly stating its objectives. Its threefold purpose is “to leverage capital acquisitions to develop Indian defence industry by (i) fostering development of internationally competitive enterprises, (ii) augmenting capacity for Research, Design and Development related to defence products and services and (iii) encourage development of synergistic sectors like civil aerospace and internal security.”
Recognising ToT as eligible for discharge of offset obligations, the revised policy mandates that the ToT must be complete, including documentation, training and consultancy, but not civil infrastructure and equipment. The DOG specifies that “ToT should be provided without licence fee that there should be no restriction on domestic production, sale or export.”
This ensures that Indian industry would be free to market any equipment that is built using the technology transferred as offsets.
The revised policy permits a multiplier of up to 3 on technologies that are transferred to the DRDO, making offsets a viable route for obtaining key technologies that the DRDO has its eye on. In practical terms, if a vendor provides the DRDO with technology for a missile seeker head, which is agreed to be worth $200 million, the vendor would be deemed to have discharged $600 million worth of offsets.
The new policy clarifies that, in a complex contract where multiple sub-vendors incur offset liabilities, the sub-vendors can individually discharge their own liabilities, but the main vendor shall be responsible for ensuring that offsets are discharged in full. For example, in Dassault’s Rafale fighter, a significant share of the offsets (especially that relating to avionics) would be the responsibility of Thales, Dassault’s key sub-contractor for the Rafale’s avionics. While Thales is permitted to discharge its offset liabilities, by partnering Indian offset partners (IOP), the overall responsibility would remain that of Dassault, which is the prime contractor.
The new policy also clarifies that the offset agreements between the vendors and the IOP would be subject to the laws of India.
A key concession to foreign vendors is the extension of two years for discharging offset obligations. The earlier policy mandated that offset liabilities must be discharged alongside the main contract. Now, an extension of two years beyond the execution of the main contract has been allowed.
The revised offset regulations provide another welcome break for foreign vendors by making banked offset credits valid for seven years, as opposed to a two-year validity period that the superseded policy allowed. Now offset-linked credits that materialise in, say, 2012-13, can be used against offsets that arise between now and 2019-20.
Finally, the revised offset guidelines incentivise foreign vendors to select micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as their offset partners by introducing a multiplier of 1.5 for all offsets discharged through MSMEs. The latter shall be identified through the monetary guidelines specified by the Department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises of the government of India.
What the revised offset policy does not provide, though it was expected to, is clarity on which MoD arm --- the Department of Defence Production (DDP), or the Acquisitions Wing --- will monitor offsets.
“The absence of clarity on who which department will monitor offsets is a major weakness in India’s defence offset policy. The MoD needs to specify this and to equip the concerned department with technically competent manpower at the earliest,” says Laxman Behera of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.